Low Calcium Intake: The Culprit in Many Chronic Diseases

Robert P. Heaney, M. Janet Barger-Lux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the earth's crust and is necessary for both plant and animal life today. Moreover, the natural diets of all mammals are rich in calcium. The diet of Stone Age human adults is estimated to have contained from 50 to 75 mmol of calcium (2000 to 3000 mg)/d, three to five times the median calcium intake of present-day US adults. Human physiology has adapted to this environmental abundance with an intestinal absorptive barrier and inefficient renal conservation of calcium. Although mammalian physiology contains mechanisms by which organisms can adjust to temporary environmental shortages, chronic calcium retention has a number of health consequences, most notably bone fragility, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. Evidence indicates that improvement in calcium intake (or in vitamin D status) prevents some portion of each of these multifactorial problems. At least 14 intervention studies have established the skeletal benefit of increased calcium intake during growth and among women in the late postmenopause. Other evidence suggests that adequate calcium may protect against salt-sensitive and pregnancy-associated hypertension and that high intakes of both dietary calcium and vitamin D reduce development of precancerous changes in colonic mucosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1155-1160
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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